Sunday, March 11, 2012

Triumph over Tragedy in Remember Me - New Thoughts on the Ending A second year anniversary post

~jessegirl~ March 12, 2012

There is an almost trite expression about the death of a loved one: If you love someone, let him go. Let her go. Let them go. But this is hard to do even when the death is not a tragedy. How do you get past a tragedy? 9/11? How do you let the loved one go after that? The impulse is to hold on tightly, and letting them go seems almost like betrayal. I would like to reflect on how this pertains to Tyler’s death in Remember Me.

Yes, I know some people hated or disliked this film. I know some people enjoyed it but that’s all. And some people loved it and sang its praises. Of the latter group, some people were so struck by it that they watched it repeatedly. I will, here, talk about that last group, because within that group some people cannot watch the ending and some feel compelled to do so. Why? What is the reason?

Pain. It’s everywhere. We avoid it. It comes anyway. At some point, we have to deal with it. There isn’t necessarily a right way or a wrong way; there are probably better ways and worse ways, but it is a very individual thing. Sometimes avoiding it just sends it to our subconscious and it will pop up at an inopportune moment. Sometimes facing it directly can be too intense and we cannot handle it. So we might take baby steps forward.

Response to Remember Me’s ending has been polarizing all along but I am not talking about that issue. However, I find it fascinating how those who love the film deal with the ending on subsequent viewings. They find the ending a powerful one which causes them much pain. Whether it is dealing with the lead character’s death, dealing with the grief for a friend/relative who died during the attacks, dealing with the horror of 9/11 on a larger scale, or dealing with unrelated personal losses, people respond differently. When watching the film again, some people cannot finish, cannot go to the end. Others have to finish, feel compelled.

Cannot Watch the Ending-

Why does one group, on repeat viewings, not finish the film? Generally, these people avoid the pain it poses and are not able to continue past a certain point. That is their way of dealing with the grief. To be clear, people in this group understand the ending and feel it is right for the film; they think the ending is respectful and know Fetters wrote the story using 9/11 as his starting point. First of all, these people also had to see the film again.

My fellow blogger, from: had this to say.

“Repeated viewings are a way of escaping from Tyler’s death, and from death itself. The story rolls back to the beginning, you start from scratch again…somehow you receive the power to resuscitate Tyler, pretending he didn’t die for real.” And later: “-and it’s like a miracle, life starts over again…And yet, the paradox is that repeated viewings are also a way of understanding that death is forever. For a time, you try to escape from the truth, going back and back and back again to see the film, but, as the ending grows nearer, the idea of death slowly begins to sink in.” She theorized astutely. [Thanks for that fine analysis, Kim.]

Some time ago, I wrote about multiple viewings. It was a very interesting phenomenon, given the serious subject matter, and it happened right away, right after the film’s release. It was all very personal.

So, if you want to see Tyler alive again, you watch the film again. But if you watch to the end, he dies again, and where are you? You really cannot escape unless you press ‘stop’. Remember Me has a power to wake up pain in a very unsettling way.” [Kim] Perhaps it taps into a very unconscious source which we all recognize but cannot express, cannot name. It is scarier than any horror movie. Tyler is the incarnation of all losses at that point.

My friend Kim has told me that it becomes unbearable for her at different points, but sometimes it is when they are at the beach house (and there is so much that follows that). She mentions the music, “when the melancholy music starts…”. (She knows the film so well she can see all which will come without seeing it.) For some it is when he’s in the elevator. For me, anxiety begins when Tyler picks up Caroline from school when summer vacation begins. There is this impulse to grab him, to pull him back to safety, and to pinpoint the moment when escape has become impossible.

Kim adds that a friend cannot watch the end of Titanic. I have difficulty watching entire films, excellent movies, like Sophie’s Choice and Schindler’s List, because the horror is too overwhelming, so I understand.

Must Watch the Ending

And then there are those who absolutely must see it through to the end. Why?
A couple of them generously offered their thoughts to me.
“I almost feel like it’s my duty to see it through, to stand and bear witness to all the pain, to all the loss, and to all the love and all the hope. Tyler will come with me in my heart of hearts, where I can cherish him and protect him forever.” [Jazz_Girl] and-

“No, much as it tears at my heart, I cannot bail on him either. I have to stay with him to the end and symbolically, [for] everyone else on that day too.” [nikola6]

Stay with him. I, too, have felt that I could not abandon him, that I could not leave him in that office. In a way, it is like a vigil. I am present for him. And I think this is of utmost importance. I want to see the resolution. I want to hear the music segue from tragic to triumphant. Once the ‘Morning Montage’ has started, the discomfort begins. For me, after that, I have to see it through to the end of ‘I Know You Can Hear Me’, otherwise the catharsis doesn’t have a chance. That last piece of music walks us through the emotional journey. For me, it’s a kind of tribute, a kind of affirmation. It is necessary and yet it doesn’t seem like a burden.

Marcelo Zarvos’ wonderful score makes me feel the triumph of Tyler’s spirit, his indelible mark. It is Tyler’s hope and promise. Yes, he is only on the cusp of laughter when he dies, yes his full potential goes unrealized, and yes, it is very tragic. That will remain so. But his promise remains.

Seeing it through takes you places you couldn’t get to unless you finished it. It’s like he needs to show us the rest. We have to hear him say, from beyond, the words he says to Michael, and which apply to all. We have to see him finish his journey to serenity, sit in his father’s chair, and smile like that.

We have to see his loved ones go on and see how their lives have changed because of him, that his fingerprints never faded from the lives he touched. That is what this whole film has been building up to. It is only in the last few minutes that the triumph comes, the triumph of the human spirit over the tragedy. The tragedy is always there, but the triumph envelopes it with healing power.

Tyler’s victories are all personal. He has committed to a romantic relationship. He has gotten his father to listen. He has decided to live. He has forgiven Michael. He has forgiven himself. He has come to an acceptance. He is not a martyr, nor a hero, but he has won significant internal battles.

I think if you stop before the tragedy, then everything leading up to it loses something. We want him to cheat death by avoiding the ending, but in not staying the course we only cheat Tyler of his victory.

While he is in his father’s office I do not even want to grab him away anymore because what he does there—before—is too important to forego. It seems small in the grand scale of things perhaps, to witness that serenity on his face, but it is the stuff of everything meaningful. And it is at that point that I know Tyler has taught us what he knows about grieving, which will come in handy when we grieve him.

What did he teach us about grieving? Well, he did not try to escape its gauntlet. He probed and tested in both reckless and reflective ways, searching for answers. He could not let it go, not until he knew, knew in a fundamental way. And when he was certain, he could accept and be content. So, despite the sharp poignancy of him dying at just the moment of emotional triumph, Tyler has shown us the way.

I have come to the point where, for me, the victory of the spirit displayed in Remember Me has overcome the tragedy. This is a hard-won stance. For a long time, it was always about “the breath-taking beauty of his promise taken away just when it was a bud, ready to blossom”. It was about what was taken away, what was lost. About what haunted. About how hard it was to bear the role of survivor. It was about not being able to deal with death. It was all about the tragedy. It took me a long time to get through that to the triumph. But triumph is meaningless without the struggle it took to get there. It’s a big word, and should not be used lightly.

But now, I can focus on the victory. I can enjoy his contentment, his smiles and so much of that occurs in his last scene, in the office. The victory of his accomplishments and the promise of his acceptance are really beautiful to watch in this final scene. Even as he stands by the window. Even so. Because, despite the horror of the end coming to him, he has won. Tyler has won. And instead of it being about what we have lost in him, it is about what we have been given and about what he has gained. The focus has changed.

Slowly the focus shifted from the pain and loss and a sharp feeling of the tragic nature of it all, to enjoyment of his accomplishments and a sense of his triumph. Don’t get me wrong. The pain is still there, made more poignant coming, as it does, hard on the heels of Tyler’s success. This is the third response. It is beyond ‘staying with him’.

Love and Grief: Holding Tight, then Letting Go

I have looked at the structure of Remember Me many times in different ways. There is the framing, the bookending, the symbolism, the circularity. I think it is ironic that the essence of Tyler’s journey becomes our own. We leave him and then start again. Now when he makes his journey through grief, it has become our own too. He gets out of the quagmire of grief and then his death sends us into that same quicksand. We watch his development, his story, as if it is only his, not ours. But then his endpoint thrusts us back to his beginning, or the circumstances of his beginning.

I am coming to believe that the most shocking and haunting thing is not 9/11 specifically. It is that we have been drawn in beyond empathy. We have been put in Tyler’s own situation of grief. It does become our own. So, at the end of his journey, we are forced to start our own and come again to his beginning, grappling with his grief. It comes full circle.

At first, Tyler holds tightly to memories and issues concerning Michael. But at the end, Tyler sets his brother free. He lets him go. Do we not, in mourning, clutch the lost loved one desperately? We must, until we have worked through the pain, as Tyler does. And then, if we are successful, we can let go. Not until after a lot of hard internal work, like Tyler does, can we accomplish this.

When you watch the ending of Remember Me, you can go beyond the pain, beyond the vigil even, to a really brave act. You can feel his triumphant spirit, and then you can let him go. Tyler set Michael’s spirit free. You can now set Tyler’s spirit free, so that it can soar. It is no longer about your pain, your grief. It is what comes beyond tragedy. The tragedy remains but you focus on Tyler’s triumph. What did Michael teach Tyler? What has your lost loved one taught you? Because of the structure of the film, Tyler has taught us that healing is possible.

Letting go is now not a betrayal; it sets the loved one’s spirit free.
On this second anniversary of the release of this fine film, I have been pondering these things.

-For Kim’s insightful article:

-Jazz_Girl and nikola6: Sept. 20, 2011 thread.


younglove said...

Lovely, lovely as always. One must work through grief, wrestle with it, never deny it, and come through to the other side...which is possibly, serenity.

solas said...

I agree with YOunglove--lovely, as always. But I have mixed feelings about it all, as well. Yes, we sense the triumph and perhaps that makes it easier in the case of Tyler, in whose life at least we did get to see the triumph, the completion, as if mission done and time to return home. ANd we learn from him, from this. But in the end, in real life in this situation, the 9-11 attacks, nobody won. And that just brings it back to the loss.

younglove said...

Not a happily ever after certainly. Ally will probably never experience anything like her relationship with Tyler again, but she chooses to go on. ...time to return home - never thought of it that way, what a great thought. No one has won. The overextending of our government on all fronts, the assault on U.S. soil that shattered our sense of security, and many many other losses. The beauty of the film is to examine one life (although the secretary is there as well with him in the office and probably others)to make the loss something we can hold in our hands. Otherwise, it's simply too big.

kidkennedy said...

I remember reading several of the posts on this blog last Sept .11th and thinking, "J is really into this film and such a good writer"....but now, I see something more in your words.
I do not want to get nosy or too personal here, but i feel like maybe you lost someone in the 9/11 attacks? dont have to answer that.
These are soulful words you have written. It is as if you are journalizing your own recovery.
It is like hearing a song who's lyrics come from somewhere so deep down inside of someone that the the fact that it is a song becomes a side-note.
"Triumph"....His or yours?...maybe both.
I always watch the ending.....i like to think of Tyler with Michael.
Thanks for sharing this with us,J.....very touching.

kidkennedy said...

Also, i always feel good for Tyler that he found his way, his truth, in this world before moving into another.
He felt loved.....what more could any of us ask for?

kalinca62 said...

Very nice Jessegirl Whenever I watch Remember Me I have to watch it through to the very end even though it is painful. Failure to do so for me would be like lovemaking without the grand finale. It loses it's impact and meaning. I still love this movie two years later ... actually more every time I see it. It reminds me how fragile life really is and how it can all change on a dime.

younglove said...

a very nice fanvid for Remember Me

Iluvthemovies said...

Very insightful, Jessegirl. I still to this day think Robert's greatest success as far as his acting is concerned is Remember Me. His acting of Tyler is so heartbreaking at the end. When I see Lena Olin who portrayss his mother at the end of the movie, it moves me to tears because the trajedy of losing a child in anyway is heartbreaking for a parent. It is not the natural order of things. As individuals we deal with grief differently, it is such a personal thing, but when you're a parent and you have other children who rely on you, you generally must move on for their benefit, as Caroline would rely on both her mother and father after Tyler's death. The sadness that Lena portrays in her eyes is haunting because no matter whether you move on with your life, the heartbreak never leaves. I have heard parents disclose once your child has passed you feel that loss constantly in your life. However, as parents they move on for the sake of their children and themselves because as cliched as it may be, life goes on, although the parent will always feel the void of their child. I watch Remember Me till the very end, maybe it does not effect me as much as a person who lived in NYC during that time, I am on the opposite coast, but I still find it amazing how people and critics thought it was a manipulative tool to end Tyler's life. I understand recently that billboards posted on buildings with a man falling as though the person was falling from a building as on 9/11, still haunt people of that trajic day. They are advertising Mad Men and that is their signature logo a falling man, but to this day people are still haunted by the memory of people falling from buildings. It must be horrific if you witnessed it and that may be something that is forever indelibly forged in those people minds. How can anyone of us who has not witnessed such atrocities as the Holocaust or 9/11 try to comprehend what goes through someone's mind who did witness the trajedies. My fervrent wish is that we as a nation and those especially who live in NYC will not forget but will be able to move forward and become less tramatized by movies that portray 9/11. All I know is that for myself personally I believe this ending was done in good taste and I would hope that eventually more people will realize it was not meant to manipulate us and perhaps maybe it was but the truth is that it is a movie, it is not the real thing, and the thing about a movie is you do not need to watch it, I hope that does not sound offensive. In my heart I believe that future generations will wonder why this movie was not received better when it was originally released. Many say it was too early, but if you follow that analogy any war movie or trajic event is too soon when discussing or viewing anything dealing with trajedies. The bombing of Pearl Harbor is a good exampe. The crew on most of those battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor had a clue as to the impending attack. I believe Remember Me will be more highly received as time goes by. Thanks again Jessegirl for a very articulate and insightful article about grief and how people may perceive it when watching Remember Me.

jessegirl said...

Of course, Solas, you and I are talking about different ways of winning. Tyler won his internal battles, which is huge. And perhaps, in some ways, other victims of that day also won in that way; we don't know. For me the deeply personal, that one individual, is the huge thing and personal victories are at the heart of life.

Younglove, I loved your comment: "The beauty of the film is to examine one make the loss something we can hold in our hands. Otherwise, it's simply too big." That's so true and so beautifully put. But I think that's true also of the Tyler's triumph.

Kidkennedy, thanks for voicing your thoughts here. I think, yes, in a way, I have been 'journalizing my own recovery', although my son, around Tyler's age, died in other tragic circumstances. When the film first came out and people were doing a lot of this journalizing, because the film is a touchstone to loss and tragedy of all kinds and it resonated with so many.

jessegirl said...

Kalinca, I know personally how life can turn on a dime. RM's impact works when it is played out.

Iluvthemovies, I really appreciate your thoughtful comment. The issue of how parents go on if they have other children is not something I have had to grapple with, but it must be very hard. I think RM's exploration of the way the parents dealt with Michael's death is illustrative of the pitfalls of grief.

Thanks, everyone, for commenting. I'm always heartened by the sincerity and the perception and interaction you all bring to this place.

kidkennedy said...

I did not know this about you (losing your son).
I do not feel that i have the vocabulary to offer proper condolences, just as i imagine that you might feel that there are no words to describe your pain.
My pitiful attempt at written sympathy would just be, that i am very, very sad for you and very, very sorry.

Jenela said...

Hi Jessie Girl, once again your words and thoughts weave through the story of “Remember Me” and make us aware of the unknown knowledge that most of won’t know the time and hour of our departure from this earth as Tyler and all the victims of 9/11 didn‘t know. Like many of the viewers I have the DVD of “Remember Me” and have gone through the highs and lows of Tyler’s life and struggle of forgiveness towards his Father and brother Michael who in their own way ended life as he knew it when they were a family.

I am guilty of watching each scene as one does a movie and other times when I will skim past the confrontation with his Father in the Board room to the reconciliation with Ally and then going up to his Father’s office and visit with Janine. Then I will FF to see Ally board the train. In all honesty when I do that I just don’t want to deal with the horrific tragedy we faced as Americans when Our Country was attacked and so many innocent people lost their lives. I as you have suggested don’t want to deal with the pain of this movie...Tyler’s death and the idea that life was starting to go well for him. He was in love and loved. His family was starting to re-bond again life was good. Then his life was over along with all the victims of that horrific day in our history. I felt it so unfair, how could this happen? Then how could it have happened to every victim whose family to this day is dealing with the death of their loved ones? Sadly it did happen and you wonder how many Tyler’s or Janine’s were there who perished or Ally’s who had to continue forward to complete their journey on this earth?

This I think is where you find the people who love this movie or hate it.
It slaps us across the face and leaves us reeling with the pain of knowing this could have happened to any of us and it did for some and not for others. However on 9/11 our lives changed forever starting with the security we go thought to get on airplane.

No, I don’t feel I have abandoned Tyler when I have skimmed through the movie on occasion...sometimes I want to just remember his laugh, smile and jokes, his anger and gentleness all the warmth he had for those he truly cared for especially the love and devotion for his Caroline and finally Ally. These are triumphs of his life and were the true back-bone of Tyler’s being...He was a good son, brother, friend and with Ally finally a true lover. It just took him awhile to move away towards Michael’s death and his anger for blaming his Father for being responsible for it. Tyler finally realized this was Michael’s choice and he finally understood it and when this happened Tyler freed himself from his self imposed anger and guilt he had carried in his heart for so many years. His last words were “Michael, Caroline asked what would I say if I knew you could hear me and I said I do know “I love you. “God I miss you “And I forgive you.” I think these last words and thoughts was Tyler giving up his anger, accepting his brother’s death and forgiving him while still loving him...I think this is his triumph and I do rejoice that before his tragic death he found forgiveness and peace and that is a good thing.

When I skim through the movie and enjoy the joy and anger of his life I feel I am watching the stepping stones of ones life pass by and when we lose our loved ones to death we in time want to remember the good times, the fun times, the jokes and smiles...the happiness not the sadness that will always envelope us when we have to let them go. So by doing this I am hanging on to his life as it was and not as it ended a bit selfish on my part but this is how I ever so often I like to remember Tyler .
Jen-- Jenela
I did get your email on my yahoo account. ;)

jessegirl said...

Hi, Jenela.
Sorry, but are you 'Jen' or 'Jennifer L'? I don't think you ever called yourself Jenela. You're from the Brevet article, right? So glad you got the message! So cool.

What you say about sometimes just wanting to 'remember his laugh, smile and jokes' and so on is very healthy. They are triumphs of his life and focusing on them is so important. What you do is not selfish; I think that is a good way to deal with it. Not that I'm any expert.

Thanks so much for re-connecting after all this time. This is, in all probability, my last article. It's been two years. Anyway, I've enjoyed our discourse.
j ♥

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I'm not too late...saw this a week ago and now reading. Oh my, what can someone say?
You lost a son, how very awful and tragic, no wonder why you speak from the heart. I know why this movie spoke to me but not when I watched it a couple times, I thought it was the best he has done, but you brought out so much, so much goodness and angst. That is why I think it is a movie for many. It probably needed better promotion. To me it has so many angles...tragedy,grief, strife, love, loves(sister, mother, brother, dad) etc. Thanks for all your words and letting us comment on your pieces. I have truly felt deeply about these posts. Kim

Anonymous said...

Wanted to add as a mother, probably the greatest loss would be a child. My dear friend once said she would stand in front of a train to be killed in place of her child, but no one else. Wish you well. Kim

Jenela said...

Hi Jessiegirl,

I am usually signed in as Jen but there are a ton of us out there and never Jennifer...NO I'm not from the Brevet article I met you on the Rope of Silicon when "Remember Me" was first starting. I do frequent Robsessed and write usually under Jen
or Jenela. I've enjoyed your articles about the Story Remember me and yes, I can imagine that this discussion is over for now...we will keep in touch and will see you on Robsessed.

jessegirl said...

Thanks for your kind thoughts, Kim. Always nice to see you here. I put the article 'out there' so that people will think about it, even if they don't agree, and that has, it seems, put many more closely in touch with their feelings about this and many things. This film is a touchstone for so many. I love to read the comments and I love when people discuss it.

Jenela, I'm confused. The Brevet article was Ropeofsilicon. Never mind. We connected and that's the important thing. If you used 'Jenela' as a moniker, I'd know you from the others. I think Jennifer has got to be one of the most popular girl's names out there.
Hugs back to you. Thanks.

jenela said...

I now remember that the Brevet article was
Ropeofsilicon. I usually used Jen but I think I use Jenela on Robessed I will use Jen~Jenela so you know who I am...Yes, thousands of Jens and Jennifers and that gets confusing.
Chat later and Hugs back

Anonymous said...

jessiegirl...just saw your reply. wish we could communicate more, you and a couple others I felt a closeness of sorts, of thoughts on this net and then poof, gone. that's the hard part of all these blogs, it's fleeting, yet so very nice to connect, like letter writing, an ancient past time. who knows maybe he'll make another movie, touching, and we can decipher that one. smiles and good will! Kim

jessegirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

jessiegirl, okay. I will do the email and I don't read the comments there anymore but I did just see the 'Fifty' on the cover of EW, good for the author. Totally agree this is an awesome site. kim:)

backtoNY said...

As a native New Yorker I find it hard to believe that the subway used for Alli does NOT go to Queens. The MacDonald Ave Station is on the Brooklyn IND line. Bad mistake.

Anonymous said...

Jessegirl, your writing has been such a gift for the sensitive thoughtful fans who visit this site. It's such a pity that ignorant trolls elsewhere on the net have discouraged you from continuing to contribute your thoughts there. God bless you.

jessegirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jessegirl said...

This is a re-published reply to Kim, first made April 1, 2012:
Kim, I'm happy that you feel that way. I enjoy our interactions as well. Perhaps we can email, although I'm very private, especially on the internet. If you have your email on your disqus and I decide to go for it, that could happen.
This site of Kat's has been so beautiful. The people commenting all along have been thoughtful, respectful, insightful, passionate. This movie and Kat's good moderation have brought out the best in those commenting. I will miss writing about Remember Me and commenting on posts here too.

Anonymous said...

Dear jesse, I'm so happy to be here on this beautiful site.. reading your beautiful words. So glad it still exists and hope it will be here for years to come, just as I believe and hope to see RM gain the popularity and recognition it deserves as time goes on. I can do no less than emphatically agree with these heartfelt comments and the sweet posters that made them. This is me, just letting you know I was here.
Love, sonja ♥

jessegirl said...

So great to see you here. Thanks for coming to check it out with its new address, and for your support. xoxo

Anonymous said...

jessegirl ;-)) luv to call you that..I'm back to read read's words about this sweet and sorrowful movie while I admire the sheer beauty of this site.. beautiful like the movie and the people who post here. ♥ I'll be sure to leave a comment on the next page..Love, sonja xoxoxox

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